Freshmen grow into roles for Men’s Basketball

In its second year of transition to Coach Landry Kosmalski’s new system, the underclassmen-laden Swarthmore Men’s Basketball team has hit a rough patch of late. Things didn’t get any easier on Saturday against Dickinson. The men came into the game looking to turn a corner against a tough conference opponent.

Unfortunately for the Garnet, Dickinson’s polished offensive attack and stifling defense justified its first-place standing in the Centennial Conference. Dickinson scored the game’s first five points and extending its lead 8-2 before the Garnet were forced to use their first timeout.

This didn’t slow the Red Devils though, as they continued to shoot well from the field. They built up a double-digit lead seven minutes into the game and were able to increase that to a 41-25 margin going into the half. Dickinson managed to shoot 67%, while holding the Garnet to 29% in the first half.

From that point on, the game was never in question. Dickinson held their double-digit lead for the remainder of the game and cruised to an 80-52 win.

Dickinson, which is receiving votes in the national poll, was able to control the game from all angles. While they outshot the Garnet they were also more successful in getting to the line and converting on their free throws. Defensively, Dickinson totaled more blocks and rebounds and forced more turnovers.

Bright spots for the Garnet included veteran team leaders Karl Barkley ’15 and Jay Kober ’14, who tallied had ten and eleven points respectively on the night. Star freshman Chris Bourne ’17 contributed another strong performance, leading the team in rebounds with seven.

On the following Tuesday, the Garnet travelled to Washington College. The first half was a whole different story compared to Saturday. The Garnet upped its shooting percentage to close to 60%, while holding the Shoremen to a meager 38%. Leading the offensive assault with ten points was Sam Lebryk ’17. The Garnet led by as much as 15 points in the first half and went to the locker room up 41-32.

The second half was a little bit of a different story. Washington was able to hold Swarthmore within reach, taking advantage of the Garnet’s poor second half shooting. The Garnet were able to hold off most of Washington’s offensive pushes, but were ultimately unable to stifle the attack. With just 44 seconds left on the clock Washington netted a key three-pointer to put them up by two. Sam Lebryk ’17 made a free throw to bring the game back to within one, but a late steal and a finishing layup by Washington College would ultimately be the dagger for Swarthmore.

Although the team went on to lose 73-68, the game was full of encouraging signs. Most significantly, the Garnet were led by three freshmen: Lebryk, Bourne and Luke McCartin. The strong performance of the youngest Garnet players bodes well for the program’s development in years to come.

At this point in the season the Garnet sit ninth in the conference with only two conference wins and an overall record of (5-13). It’s no secret this is not where the team envisioned themselves entering into the season.

When asked about the recent tough stretch in the season, Kosmalski admitted the team has lost some of that confidence they rode into the season with. He says, “We have lost a little bit of confidence as a team because we had high goals going into the season and are not yet getting the results we want.”

But just because the team has struggled to reach the goals it set coming into the season does not, by any means, imply the team has given up or lost faith in their newly hired coach. Karl Barkley ’15 says, “We know that we are only small steps away from turning things around and getting the results that we want, but we just need to continue working hard.” He feels the team “simply needs to remain focused on the little things and the details of each game.”

Injuries and illness have not made the season any easier on the team as well. While these are things most every team goes through in a season it is more detrimental to this team in particular. This team is working under a new coach and a new system. For most teams it is usually the freshmen that have anything new to learn at this point in the season, but for the men’s basketball team, all 16 men on the roster are still learning.

Kosmalski states, “Injuries and illnesses have slowed us down a little bit. They are the types of challenges every team has to deal with, but with our team being so young and our system being so new, missing players during different parts of the season has made it hard to build some momentum and gain some confidence.”

With seven games left, the Garnet are pushing to make the most of what is left in their season. They have a talented team and truly feel they are only a few small steps away from being a highly competitive team. As seen in the last two games the men’s basketball team has young talent that will certainly contribute to the future success of the team.

It will be exciting to see what the future holds for the Garnet.

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